1. Environmental
May 25, 2015

5 people who are really worried about London's Garden Bridge

By City Monitor Staff

Last week, a group of campaigners and locals gathered in Waterloo to discuss their objections to Thomas Heatherwick’s planned garden bridge. We’ve collected together various problems with the plans before, but were interested to see the range of objectors from different backgrounds who turned up at the meeting.  

Where necessary, we’ve also added some information from the Garden Bridge Trust themselves – mostly from the “Fact vs Fiction” page on their website.

1. Ann Kendrick, Chair of the London Cycling Campaign: because cyclists can’t use it

Kendrick told the meeting that she was “extremely concerned” by the lack of provision for bikes on the bridge:

It would be appalling for so much public money to be spent at this time on a new river crossing which excludes cyclists. This project does not seem to have been thought through. By 2030, we will have 10m people in London and there will have been a massive increase in the numbers of people on bikes.

(As quoted in Architect’s Journal.)

The Trust has said that cyclists would need to “push their bikes across, or use alternative routes nearby”. This is apparently to ensure the safety of pedestrians. 

2. Cezary Bednarski, bridge designer and architect: because Heatherwick may not be the right designer

Bednarski is concerned that Heatherwick was not fairly chosen as the bridge’s designer, after documents seen by Architect’s Journal showed he did not score highly in several of the appointment panel’s categories, including, er, bridge design experience. 

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At the event, he said:

This student should go back to the drawing board because this project fails on every count. 

(As quoted in Architect’s Journal.)

3. Natalie Bennett, leader of the Green party: because it’s very expensive for a single green space 

The Trust calls the bridge a “green corridor” which will be home to all sorts of wildlife and link ecologies north and south of the river. It will play host to 2,500 square metres of garden.

But Bennett claims the bridge is an example of “greenwash” – something which masquerades as something environmentally friendly in order to win funding and public support. At the meeting, she made the point that the £60m of public funding dedicated to the bridge could be used to create green spaces all over the city. 

4. Michael Ball, Lambeth resident: becuase it will block views 

Ball, who was also in attendance at the meeting, has successfully petitioned for a judicial review of Lambeth Council’s approval of the bridge, as he claims the plans don’t adequately protect the settings of nearby listed buildings.

From The Guardian

Lawyers for Ball are arguing that Lambeth council failed to comply with its duty to protect the historic settings of listed buildings in the area, including Somerset House. They also maintain long-term funding arrangements for the project have not been properly considered.

5. Christian Wolmar, Labour mayoral candidate: because it’s a commercial venture 

Ahead of the event, mayoral hopeful Christian Wolmar told London Loves Business that he doesn’t buy the project’s public pretensions: 

It’s not a transport project, so £30m of TfL money and £30m of transport money is being spent on something that really is a tourist attraction that has commercial possibility.

It doesn’t seem to be something we should be supporting as a transport scheme when it has no such function. It doesn’t make any coherent sense.

The Trust says the bridge will be free to visit, except during a maximum of 12 annual fundraising events. 

Other attendees included Fiona Haughey, archaeologist for Time Team, who has done research into erosion of London’s riverbanks; Hugh Johnson, President of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association; Caroline Pidgeon, Liberal Democrat London Assembly member; and Val Shawcross, Labour London Assembly member. 

At the moment, it looks like the bridge is likely to go ahead in its current form – as long as Ball’s judicial review fails, of course. Every objection raised at the meeting has been acknowledged before, and Westminster City Council and Boris Johnson both gave the designs the nod anyway. Ah, well.

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